Reddish Vale Country Park
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Sand martins are the smallest European hirundines (martins and swallows).
The Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) is a migratory passerine bird in the swallow family. It has a wide range in summer, embracing practically the whole of Europe and the Mediterranean countries, part of northern Asia and also North America. It winters in eastern and southern Africa, South America and South Asia. It is known as Bank Swallow in North America, and as Collared Sand Martin in South Asia, and sometimes as European Sand Martin.
The 12 cm long Sand Martin is brown above, white below with a narrow brown band on the breast; the bill is black, the legs brown. The young have rufous tips to the coverts and margins to the secondaries. Its brown back, white throat, small size and quick jerky flight separate it at once from similar swallows, such as the House Martins.
The Sand Martin's twittering song is continuous when the birds are on the wing, and becomes a conversational undertone after they have settled in the roost. The harsh alarm is heard when a passing falcon, crow or other suspected predator requires combined action to drive it away.
The Sand Martin is sociable in its nesting habits; from a dozen to many hundred pairs will nest close together, according to available space. The nests are at the end of tunnels of from a few inches to three or four feet in length, bored in sand or gravel. The actual nest is a litter of straw and feathers in a chamber at the end of the burrow; it soon becomes a hotbed of parasites. Four or five white eggs are laid about mid-late May, and a second brood is usual in all but the most northernly breeding sites.
Over the past 50 years the European population has crashed on two occasions as a result of drought in the birds African wintering grounds.
Reddish vale Country Park
DIET, INVERTEBRATES, TAKEN ON THE WING,
160,000 BREEDING PAIRS IN UK.